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Latin dancing may be a step towards better working memory for older Latinos

By on June 10, 2022 0

Summary: Latinos aged 55 and older who participated in Latin dance classes for eight months showed significant improvement in working memory compared to their peers who did not participate in Latin dance.

Source: University of Illinois

Dance is central to Latin culture, celebrated for its social, historical and cultural significance. And new research suggests that older Latinos who participate regularly can also help their brains stay healthy.

According to the study’s lead author, Susan Aguiñaga, professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Working memory — the ability to temporarily hold a small amount of information in mind while performing other cognitive tasks — is integral to planning, organizing, and decision-making in everyday life. .

The dance program used in the study, Balance and Activity in Latinos, Addressing Mobility in Older Adults — or BAILAMOS — showed promise in motivating older Latinos to become more physically active and avoid cognitive decline related to age. age, Aguiñaga said.

“Dancing can be a cognitive challenge,” Aguiñaga said. “When you learn new steps, you have to learn to combine them into sequences. And as the lessons progress, you need to remember the steps you learned in a previous lesson to add extra moves.

BAILAMOS was co-created by study co-author David X. Marquez, professor of kinesiology and nutrition and director of the Exercise and Psychology Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago; and Miguel Mendez, creator and owner of the Dance Academy for Salsa.

BAILAMOS incorporates four types of Latin dance styles: merengue, salsa, bachata and cha cha cha, said Aguiñaga, who has worked with the program since its inception when she was a graduate student at U. of I. Chicago.

“It’s an appealing type of physical modality,” she said. “Older Latinos are drawn to Latin dancing because most of them grew up with it in one way or another.”

Latin dancing can evoke positive emotions that inspire listeners to participate, increasing levels of physical activity in a population that tends to be sedentary, according to the study published in the journal Frontiers of the neurosciences of aging.

More than 330 middle-aged or older Spanish-speaking Latino adults were recruited for the study, primarily through community outreach at local churches. Participants were randomly assigned to either the dance group or the control group, which met once a week for two-hour health education classes on topics such as nutrition, diabetes and stress reduction.

Participants in the BAILAMOS groups met twice a week for dance sessions, taught by a professional instructor for the first four months and later by a “program champion” – an outstanding participant in each group who demonstrated enthusiasm and leadership qualities.

Program champions were selected and trained by the instructor to lead the sessions during the four-month maintenance phase.

During different waves of the four-year study, dance classes took place in 12 different locations in Chicago, such as neighborhood senior centers and churches that were familiar and easily accessible to participants, said Aguinaga.

Participants’ working memory – along with their episodic memory and executive function – was assessed with a set of seven neuropsychological tests before the intervention began, when it ended after four months, and again at the end of the intervention. end of the maintenance phase.

Participants also completed questionnaires that assessed the number of minutes per week they engaged in light, moderate, and vigorous physical activity across tasks associated with their jobs, hobbies, housekeeping, and other activities.

Latinos aged 55 and older who participated in a culturally relevant Latin dance program for eight months had significantly improved working memory compared to their control group peers who attended health education workshops. Image is in public domain

On average, the participants were around 65 years old with body mass indices that placed them in the obese category. About 85% of study participants were women.

Similar to a small pilot study of BAILAMOS previously conducted, the current study found no differences in any of the cognitive measures between the dance participants and their counterparts in the health education group at four months. However, after eight months, the people in the dance group performed much better on tests assessing their working memory.

“This is probably one of the most important findings – we saw cognitive changes after eight months, where the participants themselves had led the dance classes during the maintenance phase,” Aguiñaga said. “All our previous studies lasted three or four months. The take-home message here is that we need longer programs to show effects.

“But to make these programs sustainable and create a culture of health, we also need to empower participants to carry out these activities themselves and take ownership of them.”

The study was also co-authored by Dr. David Buchner, Shahid and Anne Carlson Kahn Professor of Applied Health Sciences; and Edward McAuley, Emeritus Professor of Kinesiology and Community Health, both at Island University’s Urbana Campus.

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It shows a brain

Co-authors from the Chicago campus were Susan Hughes, professor emeritus of community health sciences; Michael Berbaum, director of the methodological research core of the Institute for Health Research and Policy and the biostatistics core of the Center for Clinical and Translational Science; and biostatistician Tianxiu Wang.

Other co-authors were health sciences professor Navin Kaushal, of Purdue University, Indianapolis; Guilherme M. Balbim, postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia; Professor of Neurological Sciences Robert S. Wilson and Professor of Nursing JoEllen E. Wilbur, both of Rush University; Priscilla M. Vásquez Professor of Public Health, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science; and Isabela G. Marques, from the CAPES Foundation in Brasilia, Brazil.

About this memory research news

Author: Sharita Forest
Source: University of Illinois
Contact: Sharita Forrest – University of Illinois
Image: Image is in public domain

Original research: Free access.
Latin dance and working memory: the mediating effects of physical activity in middle-aged and older Latinos” by Susan Aguiñaga et al. Frontiers of the neurosciences of aging


Latin dance and working memory: the mediating effects of physical activity in middle-aged and older Latinos

Background: Physical activity (PA) is a promising method for improving cognition in middle-aged and older adults. Latinos are at high risk for cognitive decline and engage in low levels of PA. Culturally relevant PA interventions for middle-aged and older Latinos are essential to reduce the risk of cognitive decline. We examined changes in cognitive performance among middle-aged and older Latinos participating in the BAILAMOS™ dance program or a health education group and compared the mediating effects of PA between group assignment and change in cognitive domains.

Methods : Our 8-month randomized controlled trial tested BAILAMOS™, a 4-month Latin dance program followed by a 4-month maintenance phase. A total of 333 Latinos aged 55 and older were randomized to either BAILAMOS™ or a health education control group. Neuropsychological tests were administered, scores were converted to z-scores, and specific domains (i.e., executive function, episodic memory, and working memory) were derived. Self-reported PA was assessed and we reported categories of total PA, total leisure PA, and moderate-to-vigorous PA in minutes/week. A series of ANCOVA tested changes in cognitive domains at 4 and 8 months. A mediation analysis tested the mediating effects of each PA category between group assignment and a significant change in cognition score.

Results: ANCOVAs found significant improvement in working memory scores in participants in the dance group at month 8 [F(1,328) = 5.79, p = 0.017, d = 0.20]but not in executive functioning [F(2,328) = 0.229, p = 0.80, Cohen’s d = 0.07] or episodic memory [F(2,328) = 0.241, p = 0.78, Cohen’s d = 0.05]. Follow-up mediation models revealed that total PA mediated the relationship between group assignment and working memory, in favor of the dance group (β = 0.027, 95% CI [0.0000, 0.0705]). Similarly, total leisure PA was found to mediate this relationship [β = 0.035, 95% CI (0.0041, 0.0807)].

Conclusion: A 4-month Latin dance program followed by a 4-month maintenance phase improved working memory in middle-aged and older Latinos. Improvements in working memory were mediated by participation in recreational PA. Our results support the current literature that PA during leisure influences cognition and underscores the importance of culturally relevant PA modalities for Latinos.

Registration of clinical trials: [www.ClinicalTrials.gov]identifier [NCT01988233].